Sprint won its latest battle in a fight to combat an illegal trade in mobile phones, as a federal judge awarded the operator $26.9 million in damages in a case against a reseller.
The judgement related to a 2013 complaint in which Sprint alleged reseller Wireless Buybacks and accomplices used deception to convince the operator’s customers, including large businesses, to sell their phones while the devices were still under contract.
Sprint said Wireless Buybacks then unlocked the devices and resold them, a practice commonly referred to as trafficking which effectively robbed the operator of its upfront subsidy investment in the devices.
The operator claimed it suffered “millions of dollars in losses” as a result of the scheme.
Sprint argued customers were also left in the lurch, stuck with older devices which couldn’t take advantage of network improvements and unable to upgrade until the financial obligations associated with the stolen devices were met.
“While we understand there is a legitimate secondary market for devices that is beneficial to customers and to carriers, we strongly believe that customers are injured by the types of activities challenged in this case. We are very pleased with this decision and its acknowledgment of this company’s wrongful conduct,” Jorge Gracia, Sprint’s chief legal officer, said in a statement.
The case is just one of many Sprint has fought against people peddling handsets over the years. In April 2014, the operator said it won a total of $93 million from 37 judgements in its favour.